Phrasing

Phrasing

[frey-zing]

In music a phrase (Greek φράση, sentence, expression, see also strophe) is a section of music that is relatively self contained and coherent over a medium time scale. In common practice phrases are often four and most often eight bars, or measures, long. A rough analogy between musical phrases and the linguistic phrase is often made, comparing the lowest phrase level to clauses and the highest to a complete sentence. Thus a phrase will end with a weaker or stronger cadence depending if it is an antecedent or consequent phrase, respectively. Metrically, Edward Cone analyses the "typical musical phrase" as consisting of an "initial downbeat, a period of motion, and a point of arrival marked by a cadential downbeat," while Cooper and Meyer use only two or three pulse groups (strong-weak or strong-weak-weak) (DeLone et al. (Eds.), 1975, chap. 3).Phrases are commonly built from or contain figures, motifs, and cells. Phrases combine to form periods and larger sections of music. Phrase rhythm is the rhythmic aspect of phrase construction and the relationships between phrases, and "is not at all a cut-and-dried affair, but the very lifeblood of music and capable of infinite variety. Discovering a work's phrase rhythm is a gateway to its understanding and to effective performance." The term was popularized by William Rothstein's Phrase Rhythm in Tonal Music. Techniques include overlap, lead-in, extension and expansion, and reinterpretation or elision. (Burkhart 2005).

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